Moonlight kayaking a quiet adventure on Lake Tahoe
The smoke from California wildfires crept over the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, threatening views during our astronomy-themed full moon kayak trip on a Thursday night.
I stood on the beach of Tahoe Vista Recreation Area with my friend, Jessica Caughey and our guide, Kevin Hickey, and looked at the hazy sky.
Our fears were confirmed as the sky darkened -- but the smoke gave us something, too -- a sunset full of pink and orange clouds, and a huge red moon that reflected off the water.
The other lights lining the shore and the glow sticks taped to every paddle, dipping up and down, comforted us as we made our way out into Lake Tahoe in the dark.
Hickey, who owns the Tahoe Adventure Company, led the group of about 15 people in double, sit-on-top kayaks out past the moored boats and toward Tahoe City. Before we started he had provided a short lesson on paddling and getting in and out of the water and provided everyone with warm drysuits.
Hickey says you can wear anything under the suits as long as it isn't cotton. Cotton stays wet once it gets wet, while synthetic materials wick water away from your skin to keep you drier and warmer.
Once on the water, Jessica and I tried to coordinate our paddling and soon found a rhythm. Following Hickey, we enjoyed the sunset and he paused to let everyone "ooh" and "aah" at the moonrise.
While we sat, Hickey talked about the importance of the moon and the stars to ancient cultures. These pauses for astronomy lessons make the trip easy enough for anyone to take part -- even if you have never kayaked before or are not sure if you are in good enough shape to keep up with a group. Hickey also discussed the positions of the stars, the north star, and constellations. Despite the smoke cover, we did catch sight of a shooting star.
Hickey, who also leads daytime kayaking trips on Lake Tahoe, team-building adventures and snow-shoeing tours in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer, kept an eye on everyone and made sure we didn't sit long enough to get cold.
The round-trip of an easy two miles soon ended, though, and once back on shore, Hickey provided hot tea, cocoa and cider, along with some cookies and snacks. Jessica and I were thankful for the warm drinks because, despite feeling fine while paddling, once we stood up, we were wetter than we realized and started to shiver.
Hickey said the early cold temperatures this fall might mean that our trip was the last moonlight kayaking tour of 2006, but it depends on the weather. Contact Hickey to sign up or confirm there will be one final moonlight tour. Otherwise, check out his Web site at www.tahoeadventurecompany.com for information about his other winter and team-building trips.